How To Order Vegan Food In Other Languages While Traveling

Being vegan abroad can present challenges, but it’s definitely not impossible.
Vegan food vocab represented by someone holding a vegan sandwich of some sort toward the camera, filled with peppers, arugula and other vegetables.

More and more people are choosing a vegan diet these days. There are multiple motivations for foregoing animal products: Studies have shown that a vegan diet has a lower impact on the environment than a diet that includes meat and dairy products, and there are plenty of health benefits to a thoughtful vegan diet, as well.

It’s relatively easy to eat delicious, satisfying vegan food when you have access to a home kitchen and familiar grocery stores, or a list of your favorite local restaurants at hand. It’s not necessarily easy to be vegan when you’re traveling, however, especially in countries where you don’t speak the language. 

Vegan Food Around The World

Luckily, vegan food can be found all over the world, especially in larger cities and university towns that cater to a young, international demographic. Berlin, for example, is widely considered to be the vegan capital of Europe. In addition to numerous vegan restaurants, there are entire grocery stores in Berlin solely devoted to vegan food and products. Even the corner currywurst stand will likely have vegan options on the menu. 

Other European cities are following in Berlin’s footsteps. Over the last decade, the vegan food scene in Paris has expanded to include vegan patisseries and plant-based fine dining. Polish cities like Warsaw and Krakow also have plenty of opportunities to eat vegan. In the Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal, restaurants and grocery stores cater to the surfers and van-dwellers who flock to the coast from all over Europe, creating a year-round market for plant-based products enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. 

Of course there are plenty of vegan-friendly cities and countries outside of Europe as well. The warm climate and resulting bounty of fresh produce is said to be one of the primary reasons that Tel Aviv is a haven for vegans. The cuisine of Thailand tends to be plant-rich and vegan-friendly. And much of the cuisine in India is produced with the tenets of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism in mind: The principle of ahimsa, for example, compels non-violent action toward all living beings. 

Vegan Vocabulary — The Basics

While it’s possible to find vegan food around the world, it can be tricky for vegans to maintain their diet and communicate specific food preferences when traveling. And for many vegans it’s crucial to get it right.

 Here’s a basic primer for a few different languages.

  • For English speakers, the noun and the adjective vegan are easily recognizable in German: They are both “vegan.” Food that is produced without animal products is described as “vegan,” and someone who forgoes animal products is also “a vegan.”
  • In Portugal, as in Germany, the noun and the adjective are also the same: “vegano/a,”
  • In France, “végétalien·ne” is both a noun and an adjective. This is precariously close to the word for vegetarian: “végétarian·ne,” but these days the word “vegan” is also commonly used in French. 
  • Polish differentiates between the adjective and noun: The adjective for vegan is “wegański,” but a person who is vegan is a “weganin” (male) or a  “weganka” (female). 

This vocabulary can be very useful if you’re traveling to one of these countries, or a country that uses one of these languages. It can help you identify food on a menu or at a grocery store that is already designated vegan. But sometimes that will only get you so far. 

Vegan Vocabulary Tips

Sure, you might learn how to say “I am vegan” or “I am a vegan” in the language of your destination. But if you want to travel and stay committed to a vegan diet, it can be helpful — necessary, even — to learn how to specify what you can’t or won’t eat. And there are a few different ways to do this. 

Rather than saying to a server at a restaurant “I am vegan” in another language, try saying something like “I cannot eat meat, chicken, fish, eggs or dairy.” This way you can avoid potential misunderstandings, as the simple word “vegan,” even when pronounced correctly, can be interpreted differently around the world.

More Tips For Traveling Vegan

Here are a couple more useful tips for traveling vegan in another language: Some restaurants will very kindly designate dishes as vegan on their menus, which makes everything delightfully easy. This is typical in Berlin, for example, but it isn’t always the case. However it is common, especially in Europe, for restaurants to clearly mark potential allergens, which include fish, eggs and dairy. So learn some basic food vocabulary before you travel and enable yourself to check for specific ingredients and allergens.

In a pinch, you can almost always find pizza anywhere you go, so learn the word for “without” in the language of your destination, and empower yourself to say “without cheese” and “without meat.” This isn’t just handy for pizza, of course: You can order coffee without milk, or ask for a sandwich without mayonnaise.

And here’s another useful tip if you’re traveling in a place where you don’t know the language, where you have difficulty with the pronunciation, and especially if you’re going somewhere with an alphabet you don’t recognize: Before you go, ask someone who knows that language to write down for you, either on a piece of paper or on your phone, a clear text that specifies what you can and can’t eat.

Bring this text with you wherever you go, and show it to your hosts, servers or whomever you encounter during your travels that needs to understand your dietary preferences and restrictions. In a pinch, of course, you can also rely on translation apps — but when it comes to language, nothing compares to the human touch! 

One last tip: the easiest place to travel as a vegan is any place where you speak the language! So take the time to do some language learning before you go. That way you’ll be sure to feel confident about what you’re eating, eat well and enjoy your trip.

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